VANCOUVER – The Winnipeg Jets are heading home in finer shape than when they left, gaining a major injection of confidence after a pair of valuable NHL victories out west.
Their latest accomplishment?
Sparked by a pair of late goals in the second period, the Jets earned a 4-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday night.
Connor Hellebuyck, making his second-straight start between the pipes, made 30 saves as the Jets (2-2-0) posted another sound performance on the road, after dumping the Edmonton Oilers 5-2 on Monday.
He had a great vantage point to see the tidy effort.
"We're grinding teams down. We're getting pucks deep and we're grinding on their (defence)," said Hellebuyck. "We're being simple when we need to be simple, and then when we have a chance our skill comes out. You can't argue we have a lot of skill on this team, but knowing when to use it is key and that's what we've been doing lately.
Vancouver winger Daniel Sedin and Jets' blue-liner Josh Morrissey traded goals in the first period.
Finnish-born rifleman Patrik Laine and defenceman Tyler Myers pumped pucks past Canucks' starter Jacob Markstrom as the visitors built a two-goal lead after 40 minutes.
Laine scored his second of the year on a laser from the slot with just over four minutes left in the second period. Myers upped the lead to 3-1 with a short-handed marker while Jets' captain Blake Wheeler served his second minor of the middle frame. Andrew Copp jumped on a turnover at his own blue line and fed Myers, who picked the top corner over Markstrom's outstretched glove with just 76 seconds left for the club's second short-handed tally of the trip.
"It felt good," said Myers, who gets better and better every outing, still bouncing back from a series of injuries that forced him to miss all but 11 games last season.
"The start of the season it feels great to be back out with the guys. I feel good, still, obviously, getting used to some situations and some different plays. But it's coming back quick."
Canucks' defenceman Chris Tanev pulled his club to within a goal, with just over seven minutes left in the game, on a knuckler from the point that Hellebuyck couldn't handle.
"I'm not going to be playing baseball any time soon," said Hellebuyck. "You don't see too many pucks move from one end of the ice to the other. The way he hit that was really weird, so good goal on him."
Vancouver (1-1-1) dominated the last five minutes and coach Travis Green pulled Markstrom for an extra attacker with 1:11 left in regulation, but Nikolaj Ehlers scored into the empty net with four seconds left, his fourth goal of the season.
The trio of centre Mark Scheifele, Wheeler and Ehlers owned the puck on several shifts, although the games of keepaway failed to produce results on the scoresheet until the empty-netter.
Jets head coach Paul Maurice said the Bryan Little line, with Laine and Mathieu Perreault, was a force all night long.
"They were good at both ends. (They) battled hard. Your best line can’t drive the bus every night, they can’t," he said. "We totally take Bryan Little for granted. He’s been that good."
Little finished with a pair of assists, while Myers and blue-liner Dmitry Kulikov both finished a plus-three on the night.
"We were pretty responsible," said Wheeler. "There are multiple ways to win, especially when you’re on the road and playing in tough buildings. We came in here knowing it was probably going to be pretty greasy and it was every bit that."
The Jets kicked off the season with a lopsided loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs and then fell to the Calgary Flames before righting the ship.
"I never sensed any panic in the room. We said all the right things, but we were doing all the right things in practice," added Wheeler. "Sometimes you start the season really excited and with the way we started, it kind of levels you a little bit. Instead of trying to blow the doors off teams, we’re playing good hockey."
Winnipeg hosts the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday at 6 p.m., the start of a three-game home stand.
The Jets were guilty of some carelessness with their sticks, however, Vancouver made good on just one of five power-play opportunities. Winnipeg finished 0-for-2 with the man advantage.
Markstrom blocked 16 shots in a losing effort.
Dustin Byfuglien missed his second straight game with a lower-body injury. He'll skate Friday and could return against the Hurricanes. Centre Matt Hendricks is still sidelined with a lower-body injury.
Jets defenceman Ben Chiarot and forward Joel Armia were healthy scratches.